Flint, MI—The Flint Housing Commission has partnered with MHT Housing, a statewide nonprofit developer, to begin work on a $68 million project to renovate its affordable housing complexes across the city.
The first phase of the project, called MACH 1, will focus on renovations in four of FHC’s ten public housing communities: Howard Estates, Mince Manor Apartments, Centerview Apartments, and Aldridge Place.
The properties total nearly 400 households between them.
“Most of them were built between 1968 and 1972,” said Jason Borror, Director of Development at FHC. “They are due for a facelift.”
Borror said each property will get “about four and a half to five million dollars of immediate hard construction cost improvements,” as part of the phased plan, which the FHC is funding through a process called “repositioning.”
Repositioning in the case of these four properties, said Harold Ince Jr. the Executive Director of the Flint Housing Commission, means moving them from FHC’s current public housing financing structure—rental income and a subsidy based on a Department of Housing and Urban Development algorithm—to something called “Rental Assistance Demonstration,” or RAD.
RAD allows public housing authorities like FHC to convert their HUD subsidy into either Section 8 project-based vouchers or project-based rental assistance.
“It’s basically a different form of rental income to the housing authority,” Ince explained.
That Section 8 platform within RAD provides a more stable source of income for the FHC while keeping its housing affordable, Borror said. He added that it also allows the FHC to access other sources of income alongside RAD, like low income housing tax credits, to help finance renovations and services.
“When we combine the RAD program … along with the tax credit program, in most cases it is our best method to preserve and provide affordable housing,” he said.
As the repositioning concept is relatively new for both the FHC and residents, the public housing agency has been including residents in its renovation discussions.
“They’re doing some of the prep work,” said Linda MacKnight, a resident of Howard Estates for over three decades. “It’s a big project. It’s going to be huge.”
MacKnight said she and other residents are very much in the early stages of understanding what RAD means for them and what they can expect of the remodel.
She said she would personally love new flooring and an update to her kitchen, but her focus is on the project’s timeline, getting to keep her same unit, and what happens to residents’ costs at the end of the process.
“All of that needs to be addressed,” MacKnight said. “And not at the end when, you know, you find you can’t afford it.”
Borror confirmed the FHC is aware residents are concerned about repositioning and renovations increasing their rent.
“Yes, the value of the property and the rental income would increase if this was a market rate apartment receiving the same amount of capital improvements,” Borror said in an email. “But the RAD program provides protections for families.”
According to a Housing and Urban Development fact sheet on RAD, residents offered a “flat rate” rent in their current building are the ones who might see a rent increase in the conversion, as RAD financing does not offer that same payment option.
However, Borror estimated “5% or fewer of residents pay flat rent at the properties in the current public housing structure” and “the number of people who may be negatively impacted is very small or even zero.”
Additionally, Borror said that for any household that does see a rent increase of more than $25 as a result of being repositioned, the FHC intends to make sure the rent is raised over a five-year period to give residents time to adjust.
Borror noted that repositioning may become more common for the FHC and other public housing agencies in the state as HUD has “encouraged” them to move away from the traditional public housing model.
“It’s proven to be not financially stable,” Borror explained. “(The public housing model) is dependent upon annual appropriations for funding, and the amount of money that we get from the federal government goes up and down—but quite often it’s down.”
The Flint Housing Commission does not yet have a final timeline for the project, but hopes to begin construction later this year.